An Education: Learning About My Vagina

Writing by Kassandra Drummond // Photograph by Nadia Bautista 

CW: sex, ambiguous consent

I’m sitting in a café. Writing. How original.

For once it’s not fiction.

Apparently universities want you to give a reason why you want to continue to graduate study.

The question taunts me:

Why would you like to enrol in the Masters of Sexology?

I suppose they want more then three words. ‘Sex interests me’ probably isn’t enough. They want reasons I suppose, but I’m not entirely sure I know what those are.

When I was five years old I was informed that I did not have a vagina. My neighbour, four years my senior, proudly announced this to me while we played with Barbies in her living room.

‘Only grown up girls have them’ she said ‘you’ll get one when you’re big like me’ I shrugged, and spent many nights after that touching myself, not for pleasure, but so I could make sure I knew exactly when my vagina would grow in. Imagine my surprise in grade six Puberty Ed, when I finally learnt what a vagina was, and that I’d had one the whole time.

To be completely honest, I am surprised I hadn’t learnt about them earlier. I had only been seven when I asked my mother where babies come from. I expected a silly answer; a stalk delivers them, like in ‘Dumbo’ or you find them in a cabbage patch, like the kids in that weird book my teacher had been reading to us.

Instead she took me to my room, sat me down on my power puff girls doona cover, and explained the whole process to me. The child-friendly version of course, part of mum, part of dad, push them together and that’s how babies happen. Like you cut out a bit of flesh and put it with someone else and suddenly you get a whole new human. But at least it was closer to the truth than my friends got.

No vaginas mentioned anywhere.

Once I finally learnt that I was a proud member of the vagina-owning club, I then had to learn what it was for. At thirteen years old a boy showed me. We often walked home together and I was starting to think that I liked him. Or maybe I thought that I could like him. We went to his place, as we did most days when mum had work or some other event to keep her occupied. Normally I spent these times with his younger sister, playing barbies or listening to her stories on the CD player.

Today was different.

We were on opposite sides of the couch, watching Round the Twist on the TV. It was just me and him. Him and me. Him and I.

Have you ever, ever felt like this?

‘Come closer’ his voice was soft, comforting. I scooted over, moving into the middle of the couch. ‘Closer’ his voice was louder now, but still coaxing.

I glanced at the ruler length gap between us and inched in. ‘CLOSER’ his voice was a growl as he pulled me in until there was no gap between us.

We sat like that for a while. His arm stayed firmly around my waste, as though I was somehow going to fall away.

When strange things happen

He started to kiss me. My first ever kiss. I was not prepared.

Are you going round the twist?

Apparently kissing wasn’t that interesting cause his hands drifted up to my breasts. He didn’t bother undoing my bra, instead he just pulled the cups down and ran his lips across my nipples.

His other hand went down to my belt, and mine went to stop him. He looked at me, his eyes telling me I’d be doing something awful if I stopped him.

Have you heard the word about the bird and the spider

Fingers slipped under my knickers, into the folds I’d spent so many nights
exploring myself.

It wiggled and wiggled and jiggled inside her

For a while I thought that’s when I learnt what vaginas are for.

A guy approaches me from the other side of the room. He’s all smiles and beard and I’m convinced he’s sprayed himself with stale beer as if it were cologne. He’s not the only one who smells this way, but the others drape themselves over tables and chairs, trying to avoid the bright lights as they sip at the liquid caffeine in front of them.

It must be the hang over rush.

The man who approaches me isn’t catatonic, like the others, but he staggers a little as he walks towards me. He sits, without waiting for an invitation, on the seat across the table from me.

‘Watcha doing?’ His words slur and he tips back the screen of my laptop as if he’s got a right to see.

I snatch the computer away and slam it shut. There are no more than two words on the paper, but I’m angry at the imposition.

‘Is it a love letter?’

‘Sure’ I say, hoping one word answers will make him go away. The sarcasm is lost on him. “for me?’

I don’t respond. I never met this man in my life. Instead I stand, intending to leave, but he grabs my arm.

“Where ya goin?” A frustration grows inside me and I snap back ‘Away from you’

He lets go then and I scurry away, not looking back. When he calls out ‘I was just being friendly’ it takes all of my energy not to turn back and punch him.

When I had consensual intercourse for the first time I planned it all out. Sort of. What I really did was think about it for a few hours whilst my parents were making me stack piles of firewood. The idea that the most dangerous thing in the world is the boredom of teenagers held true for me and by the end of the day I not only had an uncomfortable number of splinters under my nails but also a set date for my sexual debut, four days later.

My reasoning for deciding to have sex was not any sort of pressure from a partner, or even that I wanted to declare my affection for this boy (who in all honesty I was mostly seeing because it was convenient), it was purely curiosity that had lead me to make this decision. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Turns out, nothing.

We did it on an old couch that was so worn-out I could feel a metal support pole digging into my back the whole time. It wasn’t bad, but it definitely wasn’t the fireworks I’d read about in the trashy romantic novels I’d been devouring recently. Maybe it would have been better if we’d done the whole ‘candle-lit hotel room’ thing, but I had made my decision and, as a teenage girl, a hotel room wasn’t a likely option.

I’m not saying I regret it. I don’t at all, but for a while I thought I should. Wasn’t my first time supposed to be this perfect, romantic night that made me feel loved and special. Instead I felt uncomfortable, sweaty, and, if I’m being completely honest, bored.

But that’s the thing about first times. They’re unlikely to be what you dream of. We were young, inexperienced and uneducated. The sex was lazy, messy, and a bit weird.

Part of me was trying to forget that experience, on the boys couch, from all those years ago, I suppose.

I have since learnt a few things about sex:

It’s better if you like the person you’re doing it with.

Vaginas aren’t just for shoving things into

The main purpose is pleasure. If everyone is not enjoying themselves then there’s no point doing it.

I have turned a corner now, not just away from the creep in the coffee shop, but from that young girl who was so ignorant about her body and the things it could do.

Six years ago a fling with a girl who never got the chance to love me back made me realise It wasn’t boys I wanted to chase after.

Four years ago I started my bachelors degree, making every assignment I could focus on sexual health.

One year ago my role as a volunteer sex educator turned into a paid role, writing a blog for queer women and leading my own team of volunteers.

But not one of those moments was what made me want to enrol in the course I’ve been thinking about since I learned of it’s existence.

In my days as a scout we had one simple rule on camps: always leave a place better than you found it. And I suppose that’s what really motivates me. I want to make sure that some way, some future five year old who gets told she has no vagina can turn around and tell her neighbour to shove it.


Nadia Bautista

Nadia Bautista a.k.a Miss Complejo is a photographer born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She portrays the female body in the most natural way, giving beauty to every part of it. Owner of an extreme softness and a strong look, “Miss Complejo” keeps a finesse that has stood out since she began to photograph 6 years ago. “I can find beauty in all kind of bodies” has been her premise, and holds it.

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